Though the power of sin has been broken, the presence of sin remains. So it’s vital that we remember the deceitfulness of sin. We tend to want to believe that we hold an accurate and reliable view of ourselves. But on this side of glorification that is not always true, precisely because sin lives in a costume. While counseling pastors, I have often been struck with the reality that the man sitting in front of me lacked accurate knowledge of himself. And you can’t grieve what you don’t see, you can’t confess what you haven’t grieved, and you can’t repent of what you haven’t confessed.
Evil doesn’t always look evil, and sin often looks so good—-this is part of what makes it so bad. In order for sin to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party. An impatient moment of yelling wears the costume of zeal for truth. Lust masquerades as a love for beauty. Gossip lives in the costume of concern and prayer. Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership. Fear of man gets dressed up as being a peacemaker or having a servant heart. Pride in always being right masquerades as a love for biblical wisdom.
You’ll never understand sin’s sleight of hand until you acknowledge that a significant part of the DNA of sin is deception. As sinners we are all very committed and gifted self-swindlers. No one is more influential in your life than you, because you talk to yourself more than anyone else does. What you say to yourself is profoundly important. Your words either aid God’s work of conviction and confession or they assist sin’s system of deception. So it’s important to humbly admit that we’re all too skilled at looking at our own wrong and seeing good. We’re all much better at seeing the sin, weakness, and failure of others than we are our own. We’re all very good at being intolerant in others the very things that we willingly tolerate in ourselves. The bottom line is that sin causes us not to hear or see ourselves with accuracy. And we not only tend to be blind, but, to compound matters, we also tend to be blind to our blindness.
What does all of this mean? Even as you do the work of the ministry, it is important to remember that accurate self-assessment is the product of grace. Only in the mirror of God’s Word and with the sight-giving help of the Holy Spirit are we able to see ourselves accurately. In those painful moments of accurate self-sight, we may not feel as if we are being loved, but that is exactly what is happening. God, who loves us enough to sacrifice his Son for our redemption, works so that we would see ourselves clearly, so that we would not buy into the delusion of our own righteousness. He gives us a humble sense of personal need so we’ll seek the resources of grace that can only be found in him.
In this way, your painful moments of sight, conviction, grief, and confession are both the saddest and most joyous of moments. It is sad that we yet need to confess what we must confess. At the same time, accurately seeing and fully acknowledging our sin is a cause for celebration. Only Jesus can open blind eyes. Whenever a sinner accurately assesses his sin, the angels in heaven rejoice, and so should we, even when that sinner is us.